Monday, August 20, 2012

Rant: Hybrids Get No Respect

I feel sorry for grapes like Baco Noir, Marechal Foch and Seyval Blanc. Though they are used to make wine, they often get very little respect because of their parentage. These grapes are hybrids, not pure vitis vinifera like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. Because they are not "pure," a fair number of people look down upon them, sometimes even shunning them. Is this grape racism? Shouldn't these hybrid grapes be judged by the quality of their wine rather than the identity of their parents?

Vitis vinifera is the "common grape vine" and the one most used for making wine. All of the major grapes of which you are familiar are likely these types of grapes, from Pinot Noir to Syrah, from Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot Blanc. Hybrids are a cross of two or more Vitis species, such as vitis vinifera and vitis labrusca. They are often created by people seeking to create a hardier grape, especially for harsher northern climates. Because they are not pure vitis vinifera, some people turn up their noses at these hybrids, refusing to believe they can produce quality wine. Drop that pretentiousness and judge these wines by their taste.

Sure there are poor quality wines made from hybrids, but there are plenty of poor quality wines made from vitis vinifera too. Yet there are some excellent wines made from these hybrids as well, and a wine lover would be hard pressed to guess they were hybrids simply from tasting the wine. You should approach a wine  without prejudices or biases, willing to taste the wine and let it stand on its own. If you do so, you will probably find plenty of delicious wines that you might never have experienced otherwise.

When I was in Nova Scotia last week, I dined at Chives, a restaurant located in Halifax which specializes in using local ingredients. Their wine list also includes a number of local, Nova Scotian wines, including the 2011 Blomidon Estate Winery Rosé. As I love Rosé wines, I was curious about this selection and our server gave it a hearty recommendation. So I ordered a glass and enjoyed it so much that I ended up ordering a couple more glasses during the course of dinner.

Blomidon Estate Winery is located in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia and they are committed to producing wines using only Nova Scotia grown grapes. That is an admirable mission. When I tasted the 2011 Rosé ($15.99 per bottle at the winery), I did not know what grapes were in the blend. I found it to be a crisp, dry, clean and refreshing wine, with subtle strawberry and watermelon flavors and hints of floral notes. It was far more Provence style than California, and paired very well with a variety of foods. It was easy drinking and would make an excellent summer wine, though I could easily drink it year round too. I would give it a strong recommendation.

I later learned that this Rosé is a blend of three hybrids: New York Muscat, L’Acadie Blanc and Baco Noir. The Muscat is not actually from New York, it is just the name of the hybrid. From its taste, there was nothing that would have indicated to me that this wine was made from hybrids. It was very European in style, and you easily might have thought it was made from Rhone grapes. It was simply an excellent wine that any wine lover would have enjoyed, including any hybrid haters.

So stop being a snob about hybrids and judge the wine on its taste, not its parentage.

1 comment:

Jason Phelps said...

rediaasWhether they get respect or not depends on where you expect them to. In the areas where hybrids are grown, vinified and enjoyed they get plenty of respect. I see this the same way as unknown (or lesser known) grapes from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Austria and Greece.

The people who grow them and know them shower them with plenty of love.

Ok, how about the rest of us? Would wider knowledge do them any good? If that knowledge is superficial like so much wine enthusiasm then it makes no difference and I say no. For the select few who would find them truly personally appealing and want to slot them into their wine lifestyle, yes more awareness might be better. But then again, those are the people who get out into the field and explore so they will find them anyway!

I enjoyed my Anthony Road Vignoles before #winechat last night by the way!